1. Campkin, Lisa M. MSc
  2. Boyd, Jamie M. BA
  3. Campbell, David J. T. MD, MSc


Purpose: Participation in exercise programs postmyocardial infarction is highly protective against future events and mortality. Unfortunately, uptake and maintenance of exercise participation has been documented as being low. This is thought to be due to a myriad of barriers. Qualitative research is a powerful tool to explain behaviors. We sought to summarize existing qualitative literature exploring patient perspectives of participation in exercise after a cardiac event.


Methods: We updated and built upon a previous systematic review and meta-synthesis by identifying qualitative literature that was not previously captured. We used grounded formal theory to synthesize the qualitative findings in the selected literature. This process led to the development of a comprehensive conceptual framework for understanding the determinants of exercise participation.


Results: We found that external, internal, and cultural factors work together as umbrella themes to influence exercise initiation and continued participation in patients who have experienced a cardiac event. Internal factors expand into physical, cognitive, and emotional domains, which include fear, motivation, and mood. External factors include the domains of pragmatic and social considerations such as safety, accessibility, and social support networks. Cognitive and social domains were the most frequently cited factors influencing participation in exercise programs.


Conclusions: The framework we outline allows for a more complete understanding of the factors that influence the exercise behaviors of patients with coronary artery disease. Cardiac rehabilitation programs should consider the key factors and capitalize on this knowledge, making these facilitators rather than barriers to exercise participation.